Friday, February 3, 2023

The Space Eagle - Operation Star Voyage!

After a small wait of forty years or so I got to finally read the second Space Eagle book from Jack Pearl. The first Whitman novel starring the Space Eagle fell into my young clutches and I absorbed it at right the same time as I was discovering comic books like The Flash and Captain Marvel and getting to see flicks like Planet of the Apes. It was a Doc Savage-esque story of space exploration melded with Bondian intrigue and and derring-do. 

The hero Paul Girard through use of a Faster-than-Light spacecraft called the SWIFT and some gimmicks and disguises infiltrates a madman's lair and saves the world from utter atomic destruction. In this sequel Paul Girard and his genius twin sister Julie are back. She developed the SWIFT based on the work of a Russian defector scientist, and this scientist tips off the government that the Soviets (the Cold War still rages in this alternate future) are about to master FTL flight themselves using "Spartanium" the rarest of metals found only behind the Iron Curtain and a small particle of which powers the SWIFT. Paul adopts a disguise, goes behind the Curtain and infiltrates the prison camp that masks and mines the ore. He finds out the threat is real and that the source of the Spartanium is an ancient giant meteor. He returns to the U.S. after some gunplay and prepares to head to Alpha Centauri, the only place where Spartanium is found in the spectrum. 

He takes with him Samuel Aarons, a giant but gentle black man who is also a family friend. They go into space and using the FTL drive go almost instantaneously to a planet named Mega-3 where the Megans are not all that happy to see them. The Megans explain in fuller detail to the relatively witless humans the details of FTL transportation but uttlerly refuse to give the primitive humans anymore dangerous Spartnaium. As it turns out the Megans are all too familiar with us, having visited us in those pesky UFOs for quite a while. They do though after becoming convinced of the Space Eagle's virtue, and impressed with a speech given by Sam give the humans another element called Xenon that will make Spartanium useless. The Space Eagle and his deputy return to Earth but before they can make landfall they are intercepted by Space Pirates led by Luchesi Muta who survived his apparent death in the first novel and now wants the get the FTL drive for himself. Ultimatley Paul and Sam escape and defeat the pirates and attempt to drag their space ship the Ming 5 along with in an FTL jump, but the pirate ship is lost in the mists of time. The Space Eagle returns to Earth, seeds the Xenon in the clouds which destroys the Spartanium mine by rendering the mineral useless and the world is safe from tyranny once more. 

Pretty dang good stuff. The story this time did seem somewhat more outlandish, losing a bit of the spy intrigue of the first one. But the sci-fi elements are ramped up for sure. The Megans are pretty stereotypical aliens -- tiny pale eggheads -- and the whole trip to another solar system is presented in a somewhat bland way. The spectacle of the first novel is lost a little in the mad dash of this plot. The return of Luchesi at the end was a neat surprise, but it might've been one detail too many in an already crowded plot. Nonetheless, this is a slam-bang entertaining novel, and well worth the forty-year wait.

NOTE: This is a Dojo Revised Classic Post. 

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